I am having a little obsession with David Foster Wallace’s book ‘This is Water.’ And when I mean little, I mean big. BIG.
The book starts out with a little story – two fish are swimming past an older fish, who looks at the two young ones and says, “How’s the water?” As the two fish continue on their way one looks at the other and says, “What the hell is water?”
The simplicity of that fish story made me stop, and it made me think, but it also made me laugh. Think about it. A fish asking, “What the hell is water?”
THIS IS WATER.
It’s life. It’s everything around us. It’s the tiny things and the big things that work together to keep you going. It’s the people that collect your garbage and sort your recyclables; the chickens that lay the eggs that go into your cakes; it’s the city that builds the park for your child to play in; it’s the staff that work the overnight shift so you can get your groceries anytime of the damn day. It’s the well-oiled machine that we’ve come to expect, but have gotten so accustomed to that we stop noticing until a part breaks down. Just like the fish, we are so busy swimming, and so used to taking things for granted, that we don’t even notice what we are swimming in.
This is water. For me, that just clicked and made sense. For you, if not, I’ll try my best explaining but I seriously recommend reading the book yourself.
Wallace was trying to make a point, trying (in my own opinion) to wake new graduates up before they had a chance to fall asleep at the wheel of adulthood. ‘This is Water’ was a commencement speech and it went on to talk about the habits we form and how we get lost in them. It talks about our own obsession with ourselves – it’s OK, admit it, we all see the world from one perspective (our own) so it’s hard not to get caught up in the importance of oneself. The harder part still is pulling yourself out of that habit. To see the world around you, outside of you, not based on your own needs and wants 100% of the time.
Do you take stock of everything that keeps you afloat? I know myself that I don’t. Not all the time. I’m trying though. I’m trying to step outside of myself and notice how I am where I am, and what keeps this life of mine going. I am trying to take myself off the world’s most important list and remember that each of us deserves some space on there. I am trying, baby step by baby step, to live more mindfully, so that when I do get caught up in my routine (which inevitably happens) I can pull myself out every now and then to notice the water.